KNOW YOUR STATUS: Western Cape Health MEC NomaFrench Mbombo encouraged people to do HIV, diabetes and cancer tests as part of World Aids Day outside the Cape Town train station. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency
Cape Town - As the world prepare's to commemorate World AIDS Day, Mayco member for Safety and Security; and Social Services JP Smith has said that he is extremely pleased with the level of HIV testing conducted in the Cape Town metropole.

Between October 2017 and September this year, there were 1 065 386 HIV tests recorded – the highest ever in a single year.

"This is testimony to the hard work of the public health sector and its partner organisations, many of whom are non-governmental entities doing amazing work in the sector. It also demonstrates the results of the additional funding received from the United States government which has helped increase the level of testing," Smith said.

"We further expect that the ‘HIV self- screening’ that will be piloted in Cape Town in the near future will further expand easy access to testing. Piloted by the National Department of Health, it is an oral swab test which, if positive, is then confirmed using the finger prick or other HIV test done by a healthcare provider."

This year marks the 30th commemoration of World AIDS Day and the theme is ‘Checka Impilo’ or ‘Know your Status’.

There have been many advancements in the fight against HIV/AIDS and it is not the death sentence it once was, but rather a chronic condition that can be effectively managed with medication.

"The journey begins with testing and knowing your status. Test results are available in a matter of minutes thanks to the finger prick test. Staff who conduct the tests are also trained to provide pre- and post-test counselling and advice. Our statistics do, however, show that testing rates for men are still lagging," Smith explained.

"Another challenge is what people do, or do not do, once they do know their status. Data suggests that in Cape Town, the majority of those who are HIV positive actually already know their status, but some have never started on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment (ART), while others who have started on ART are no longer taking it."

He said that ideally, everyone who is HIV positive should be on ART for their own health benefit, but also to protect others, such as their sexual partners, from acquiring HIV. 

"We urge all those who are HIV positive to take steps to get onto treatment, or to get back onto treatment.

"City Health is trying to make it as easy as possible for people to access care, which is why it introduced the ART Clubs for clients whose condition is stable, in order to streamline and fast-track the collection of medication. In addition, City health is piloting a new appointment system," Smith added.

"These are but some of our interventions to meet the UNAIDS 90:90:90 strategy, the aim of which is to ensure that by 2020, at least 90% of all people living with HIV will know their status; at least 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and at least 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will achieve viral suppression.

"For those who test negative, but are at risk of acquiring HIV, the National Department of Health has launched a pilot project to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the form of a tablet to prevent the acquisition of HIV."

In Cape Town, the sites dispensing PrEP for young women and girls include:
  • Mobile sites run by TB/HIV Care, linked to the following City health facilities: Site B Youth Clinic in Khayelitsha, Hout Bay Main Road Clinic
  • The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation is supporting the provision of PrEP at the following City Health facilities: Phumlani Clinic, Crossroads 1 Clinic, Gugulethu Clinic
The City is hosting a number of outreach events to mark World AIDS Day, but testing for HIV/AIDS as well as a range of other general health screenings and activities are available all year round at primary and secondary health facilities, but also through the various non-governmental organisations working in the sector.

A list of some of the City’s World AIDS Day outreach activities is available here: http://bit.do/aidsday

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